Canada’s Achievements at COP26
The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), which took place in Glasgow between October 31 and November 13, 2021, was the most important climate conference since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015. Under the Paris Agreement, countries established an ambitious framework to fight climate change, including averting its worst impacts by pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C and adapting to those impacts that cannot be avoided. In Glasgow, countries worked together to ensure the world is doing what’s needed to deliver on the promise of the Paris Agreement by enhancing their goals and outlining new actions to strengthen efforts over the coming decade.
In the two years leading up to the conference, the UK COP26 Presidency led a significant effort to ensure countries came forward with enhanced climate goals, new climate finance commitments to help developing countries fight and adapt to climate change, as well as a number of concrete commitments and actions.
COP26 also came on the heels of international reports outlining the current state of the climate crisis. These included reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) noting the gap in global ambition, which needs to be addressed to keep the goals of the Paris Agreement within reach.
The UK COP26 Presidency framed the Glasgow Climate Change Conference around global ambition. While COP21 in Paris in 2015 was historic in achieving a new global framework on climate change, COP26 was historic in its breadth, scope, size, and ambition. Because climate change affects all economic sectors and parts of society, effective climate action requires society’s full participation. That’s why the UK designed a comprehensive conference that covered a range of themes, such as finance, energy, nature, adaptation, transport, gender, youth, and cities. As a result, COP26 was the most subscribed climate conference since Paris and provided a number of high-level engagement opportunities on climate ambition. Over 120 leaders attended the World Leaders Summit on November 1–2 and over 190 countries were represented at the conference.
Canada heading into COP26
Canada worked with key partners and allies in the lead-up to COP26 and made several key commitments. These commitments, supported by concrete actions, include:
- presenting a Strengthened Climate Plan in December 2020 that put Canada on track to meet its previous emissions target;
- committing to an enhanced target of reducing emissions by 40 percent to 45 percent from 2005 levels by 2030;
- enshrining this target in law, as well as Canada’s commitment to achieve net zero by 2050 through the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act; and
- doubling its international climate finance for developing countries
Canada co-hosted a Powering Past Coal Alliance (PPCA) Global Summit with the United Kingdom (March 1–2, 2021) to build momentum in the global phase-out of coal. At the Summit, Canada and the UK welcomed ten new members to the PPCA and laid the groundwork for additional members to join at COP26.
Following Canada’s commitment to double its climate finance for developing countries, Canada co-led a process with Germany to develop and present a Climate Finance Delivery Plan showing how and when developed countries would meet their commitment to mobilize US$100 billion in climate finance annually between 2020 and 2025 to help developing countries fight and adapt to climate change. The Delivery Plan was a critical element for building trust and goodwill that helped pave the way for ambitious outcomes at COP26. In the final text of the Glasgow Climate Pact, countries under the Paris Agreement welcomed the increased pledges made under the Delivery Plan and the collective actions contained in it.
Lastly, in the fall of 2021, Canada joined a handful of countries as an early supporter of the Global Methane Pledge, which has the objective of collectively reducing global methane emissions across all sectors by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030. In line with recommendations by the International Energy Agency, Canada went a step further and became the first and only country to commit to reducing oil and gas methane emissions by at least 75 percent from 2012 levels by 2030.
Canada’s whole-of-society, whole-of-government approach at COP26
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau led Canada’s delegation and attended the World Leaders Summit. He was joined by the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, and by the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change. The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources, and the Honourable Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport, also attended COP26 to take part in discussions and announce Canada’s next steps on energy transition and the greening of transportation systems. The participation of ministers across different portfolios demonstrates that climate action requires a whole-of-government approach. In addition, Canada’s Ambassador for Climate Change played an important role, representing the country at a number of high-level events and bilateral meetings.
Canada’s diverse and inclusive delegation to COP26 included opposition Members of Parliament; provincial and territorial representatives, including provincial Premiers and environment ministers; representatives of National Indigenous Organizations; as well as civil society participants, labour representatives, youth organizations, and business leaders. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, only vaccinated individuals were part of the Canadian delegation. Canadian delegates were instructed to follow the rigorous public health guidelines, including daily testing, put in place by the UK Government as COP26 hosts.
Key highlights from Canada at COP26
Increased ambition to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
Experience at home and around the world shows that putting a price on carbon pollution is an effective tool to fight climate change. Leading experts from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank have been clear that carbon pricing will be even more effective if more countries adopt it. Prime Minister Trudeau discussed the success of Canada’s carbon pricing approach in helping Canadians achieve their environmental goals and economic ambitions. He also co‑hosted an event with the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, with participation by the President of the European Commission; the Prime Minister of Sweden; heads of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization; the CEO of Dalmia Cement; and Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance. At the event, Prime Minister Trudeau noted that just over 20 percent of global emissions are currently covered by some form of carbon pricing and called for a tripling of coverage (to 60 percent) by 2030 as an important step toward advancing global carbon pricing and achieving net zero by 2050.
In jurisdictions where the federal backstop applies in Canada, the majority of families have and will continue to receive more money back through Climate Action Incentive rebates than they pay, with those who are the least well off benefitting the most. At COP26, the Prime Minister announced that Climate Action Incentive rebates will be delivered to Canadian families more regularly (quarterly) starting in July 2022.
Phasing out coal
Coal is the most polluting source of electricity, and phasing out coal-fired electricity is one of the most important steps to tackle the climate crisis. Canada is building on existing actions to phase out coal at home and around the world. These efforts include regulations to accelerate the phase-out of coal-fired power generation in Canada by 2030, investments to support a just transition for coal workers and communities, and joint efforts with the UK to move the world past coal through the Powering Past Coal Alliance.
The Prime Minister made three significant announcements in this area, confirming that Canada will:
- Help developing countries transition away from coal-fired electricity by providing up to $1 billion in climate finance to expand access to clean power and to support a fair, inclusive transition for coal workers and communities around the world.
- Commit to accelerating its clean energy transformation by working with provinces, territories, industry, and other stakeholders to ensure that the electricity grid achieves net-zero emissions by 2035. Canada already has one of the cleanest electricity grids in the world thanks to its abundance of hydropower and existing efforts to phase out coal.
- Work toward ending exports of thermal coal by no later than 2030. This builds on Canada’s recently announced policy statement which indicates that the Government considers that new thermal coal mining or expansion projects are likely to cause unacceptable environmental effects within federal jurisdiction and are not aligned with Canada’s domestic and international climate change commitments.
Minister Guilbeault, alongside his UK co-lead, presided over a headline event by the PPCA to welcome twenty-eight new members from around the world, including TransAlta, Export Development Canada, and Britain’s three largest banks. This initiative started with twenty‑seven members in 2017; as of November 2021, it has 165 members, including over thirty financial institutions representing US$17 trillion in assets under management.
Reducing oil and gas emissions
Prime Minister Trudeau delivered a national statement where he committed to cap Canada’s oil and gas emissions at the pace and scale needed to get to net zero by 2050, making Canada the first major oil-producing nation to make such a commitment. Minister Guilbeault and Minister Wilkinson subsequently requested advice from the Net-Zero Advisory Body on key guiding principles to inform the development of quantitative five-year targets. Consultations will continue with provinces, territories, civil society, labour organizations, National Indigenous Organizations, and industry partners, both on the targets and the overall approach to decarbonizing the oil and gas sector.
To support the global reduction of fossil fuel emissions, and as Canada moves toward a prosperous net-zero economy, on November 4, Minister Wilkinson announced that Canada, along with other major economies such as the United States and United Kingdom, will end new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel sector by the end of 2022. This commitment includes exceptions in limited and clearly defined circumstances that are consistent with the 1.5˚C warming limit and the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Reducing methane emissions
Prime Minister Trudeau joined other world leaders in formally signing on to the Global Methane Pledge. He reiterated Canada’s commitment to reducing oil and gas methane emissions by at least 75 percent below 2012 levels by 2030. The Global Methane Pledge now has the support of over one hundred countries, including the world’s six largest methane emitters. Reducing ground-level ozone pollution caused in part by methane can prevent over 200,000 premature deaths, hundreds of thousands of asthma-related emergency room visits, and over twenty million tonnes of crop losses a year by 2030.
Canada plays a leading role in global initiatives to reduce methane emissions, including as a founding partner of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC). On November 9, Minister Guilbeault participated in a CCAC Ministerial Meeting alongside forty-seven other countries, where the CCAC Methane Flagship was launched. The Flagship process will strategically focus the Coalition’s activities on the delivery of the Global Methane Pledge for one year. Canada has added $10 million to support this work.
Reducing methane emissions must be supported by sound scientific evidence and a capacity to monitor and calculate methane emissions. As Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said, “Only what gets measured gets done.” To this end, the International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) was launched. The IMEO is an initiative that will report on global-scale methane emission impacts and trends. GHGSat, a Montreal start-up that has a world-leading high-resolution, satellite-based GHG detection system, will be the first contributor of high-resolution methane emission satellite data to the IMEO. Canada is supporting this work with $20 million through Sustainable Development Technology Canada.
Mobilizing private finance
Mobilizing finance for the climate transition is a key objective of COP26 and an unprecedented opportunity. Private financial institutions with over US$130 trillion in assets united behind a common goal at COP26 to accelerate progress toward a net-zero emissions future. Deputy Prime Minister Freeland hosted a high-level roundtable on private finance with Ministers Guilbeault and Wilkinson, in coordination with the Sustainable Markets Initiative and Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, to advance the conversation.
The roundtable brought together officials, dignitaries (including His Royal Highness Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales), and senior executives from the finance, energy, and insurance sectors, to discuss opportunities to scale up private capital for the transition to a low-carbon future. They also discussed private sector strategies to transition assets toward sustainable market opportunities and the role of governments and enabling policies to facilitate the transition in capital.
Scaling up action on oceans, forests, and nature-based climate solutions
Advancing integrated action on climate change, biodiversity loss, and nature conservation was a major priority of the UK COP26 Presidency, and a key area of Canada’s engagement at COP26. Canada joined a number of other countries in endorsing several leader-level commitments aimed at ending deforestation and advancing sustainable land use, including:
- The Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use, which commits to working collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030;
- The Global Forest Finance Pledge, which announced the intention of Canada, along with eleven other donor countries, to collectively provide US$12 billion for forest‑related climate finance between 2021 and 2025; and
- A joint statement committing to continue engaging in the Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) Dialogue between producer and consumer countries.
Moreover, Prime Minister Trudeau, Minister Guilbeault, Minister Wilkinson, and Canada’s Ambassador for Climate Change, Patricia Fuller, participated in several oceans- and nature‑themed events.
Notably, Prime Minister Trudeau participated in a meeting of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, joining fellow Panel members in endorsing a statement urging all actors to accelerate progress on ocean-based climate action to support the achievement of the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Minister Guilbeault highlighted the importance of scaling up public and private investment in nature‑based solutions, including in oceans. He also demonstrated Canada’s continued support for an ambitious and practical post-2020 global biodiversity framework under the Convention on Biological Diversity, including a strong global target of conserving 30 percent of the world’s lands and oceans by 2030 (“30by30”).
Minister Guilbeault also announced that Canada will allocate at least 20 percent – or more than $1 billion – of its $5.3 billion climate finance commitment to nature-based climate solutions with biodiversity co-benefits in developing countries over the next five years. This includes Prime Minister Trudeau’s announcement of $9 million in additional support for the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA). This funding is intended to support the Alliance’s ongoing work helping Small Island Developing States and coastal developing countries increase their resilience to the impacts of climate change through nature-based solutions. Canada has also committed $6 million for the Global Fund for Coral Reefs to support international efforts in coral reef conservation and restoration.
Cleaner transportation on land and water and in the air
To ensure transportation emissions decrease, Canada joined other countries in making commitments at COP26 to establish green marine shipping corridors, enhance international collaboration to reduce aviation emissions, and take steps to accelerate the growth of all types of zero-emission vehicles (passenger vehicles, tractor trailers, buses, etc.).
Climate action and leadership from Indigenous Peoples
At COP26, Canada continued to champion the leadership of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform, which amplifies Indigenous voices in international climate change discussions. This platform brings Parties and Indigenous Peoples together to share knowledge on how to address climate change. Canada worked with partners to conclude a new three-year work plan and a renewal of the mandate of the Platform’s governing body to ensure Indigenous climate leadership remains at the forefront of international climate action.
Minister Guilbeault also participated in an event entitled Indigenous Self-determination in Research for Better Climate Outcomes alongside Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami President Natan Obed. An ambitious new program was launched to put in place the steps needed to walk together in creating respectful partnerships that support self-determination in research. Minister Guilbeault also met with Indigenous youth delegates and representatives of the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council, and the Manitoba Métis Federation at COP26. Canada was also proud to have supported Indigenous Clean Energy’s Three Island Energy Initiative (Just Climate Energy: Indigenous Renewable Energy Microgrids for Energy Transition) as Canada’s official side event at COP26.
Glasgow Climate Pact
In 2015, Canada helped spur global ambition and strengthen resolve by pushing to include the 1.5°C objective in the Paris Agreement, and this has guided Canadian climate policy. The 1.5°C limit matters for Canada, particularly as the country is warming at twice the global average. The 1.5°C limit is even more essential for developing countries, which often lack adequate resources to fight climate change and adapt to its effects.
Minister Guilbeault reaffirmed the Government of Canada’s support for the High Ambition Coalition, which it joined in 2015, and signed the High Ambition Coalition COP26 Leaders’ Statement with other leading countries. The Coalition pushes for more ambitious action, including ensuring that the 1.5°C goal remains the top priority globally and that support for adaptation continues to increase.
Just before midnight on Saturday, November 13, COP26 was gavelled to a close in Glasgow. Parties to the UNFCCC agreed on the final text of the Glasgow Climate Pact, which leaves governments from around the world with a clear mandate to accelerate domestic action on climate change. Minister Guilbeault and Canada’s team of negotiators played an active role in supporting a successful outcome.
Under the Glasgow Climate Pact, Parties reached agreement across key issues on mitigation, adaptation, climate finance, and loss and damage. Agreement was also reached on finalizing outstanding aspects of the Paris Rulebook, including rules on carbon markets (Article 6), transparency and reporting (Article 13), and time frames for the implementation of nationally determined contributions. The Article 6 rules will ensure that there is robust accounting for international trading of carbon credits. Article 13 rules will ensure countries are held to account on their emissions and climate actions. At a plenary session on November 12, Minister Guilbeault made clear that any agreement on a path forward must protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, who have been stewards of this planet since time immemorial. He noted that climate action is not possible without the knowledge and leadership of Indigenous Peoples.
In Minister Guilbeault’s final update to Canadians on November 12, he stated that it is important for Canadians to hear, and to take some quiet pride in the fact, that since the coming into force of the Paris Agreement, Canada has come a long way on climate action. From cities and small businesses to the federal government, Canada is on a path to achieve the kinds of emissions reductions that successive governments have been promising since the 1990s and have not delivered. Minister Guilbeault concluded by recognizing the need for Canada and countries around the world to do more, and on a faster timeline, and committed to working with Canadians and international partners to do exactly that in the days, weeks, and months to come.
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